Being a humourless spinster, there were only two important things in Susan’s life. Her cat Jeff and being called Susan. As the single owner of a small shop selling stationary and office supplies, she considered herself to be the only independent and strong willed woman in a community dominated by mindless, gabbling housewives. She didn’t need a husband or a partner because all a woman of forty nine needs is cats and crossword puzzles.
After a hard day selling staples and shit, Susan usually headed over to the local supermarket to find something to eat. She didn’t often keep food in the house because she lacked the capacity to think further ahead than half an hour. She lived day by day, choosing from an assortment of ready meals offered by the establishment. Whilst not caring so much about her own appetite she often spent upwards of half an hour standing in front of the pet food section scrutinising the various brands and types of cat food on offer, she knew Jeff to be an affectionate cat but would often loose his temper should he not get the sort of dinner he was accustomed to: quality meat, cooked by the finest chef and with the sort of variety that a crisp maker would be jealous of. She knew that, for Jeff, only the finest would do. However, staples are pretty cheap and being the expert business woman that she was she also knew that they were in abundance which meant that she couldn’t sell them at a premium even if she wanted to. Business had also been slow in recent weeks and in order to keep herself in a steady supply of £1 lasagnes she knew that Jeff would have to compromise.
Jeff on the other hand didn’t give a shit, he’s just a cat and whilst he may be perceived to be selective by holding out for the best available food, in reality he would readily eat anything when given the choice between that and nothing at all. Despite Susan pressuring herself with her delusional application of human attributes to Jeff and her readiness to believe he was a free thinking individual capable of reason, she realised that she just couldn’t afford the top end pouch. She eventually picked up three pouches of a mid range brand of cat food and headed to the checkout, worried at what the cost might be, about how Jeff might react and how their relationship would be affected.
When Susan arrived home she was relieved to find that Jeff had been sick on the rug. Oddly, she believed this to be good for two reasons: one, because he was unlikely to stick around to help clear it up and two because wherever he was, he was almost certainly going to be hungry when he got back. She figured that if he was famished he’d be less likely to cause a ruckus. She set about preparing the meal.
Mondays were often a busy day for Jeff as it was the day where he liked to sit under parked cars and stare at pedestrians. On occasion, he liked to poke his head out from under the vehicle and meow softly, enticing strangers to kneel down and pat him on the head, only to recoil when they stretch out their hand leaving the stranger feeling silly and inadequate and onlookers concerned at the thought of a potential car thief operating in their community.
Being a cat, Jeff was unconcerned with human concepts such as trespassing and so spent most afternoons sat in his neighbours back garden, staring in through the window at the elderly gentleman, almost out of spite as it appeared Jeff was more than aware that the man didn’t like him in his garden and that he couldn’t do anything about it. Jeff would sit there nonchalantly; slowly blinking and yawning in the direction of the old man, whilst the old man glared back wondering what had made this cat think he could be so brazenly arrogant.
After such a Monday Jeff made his way back to the house to find Susan frantically preparing some food. Jeff knew it was his dinner because the familiar markings on the bowl she was using told him, to human eyes those markings would spell “CAT”. He immediately began to purr and strut a figure-eight pattern through the legs of Susan. This made Susan even more anxious than she was already, Jeff was hungry, he was used to good food and all she had was a mid level brand to give him. Luckily she had already disposed of the pouch and after a minute she hurriedly placed Jeff’s bowl on the floor for him to tuck into.
Jeff waited patiently but followed the bowls transit from the tabletop to the floor with much interest, he liked to glean as much information on what he was about to eat at the earliest possible point and as soon as the bowl touched the lino he was right there stalking it, sniffing intently almost huffing it in like a teen with an aerosol addiction.
Susan attempted to keep the facade of normality up and returned to her copy of Chat! Magazine; in particular the story concerning a small boy with a third testicle hanging precariously from one of his ear lobes. As she raised the magazine to begin reading, she saw Jeff begin eating. She relaxed.
If there was one thing that Jeff knew apart from making lazing around seem like a job, it was how big his stomach was. Jeff certainly wasn’t a fat cat, his stomach was of average size and he would often leave a small portion because he just couldn’t handle a whole pouch. He considered himself much like Susan because she couldn’t handle a whole tin of beans which often made a round of beans on toast relatively pointless. After he was satisfied that he had finished, he had a little sip of water to refresh himself and sat at the feet of his owner anticipating a congratulatory head scratch. What followed next was unexpected.
As Susan become more engrossed in the the kid with a bollock on his ear, she put Jeff out of her mind, as long as he was eating that was all that mattered, the anxiety could stop, the morbid curiosity deceptively concealed as sympathy could start. After a while Susan became aware of eyes staring in her direction, she became nervous and unsettled, she slowly lowered the magazine to see Jeff sat at her feet. She immediately felt as if something was wrong, she drew from Jeff’s demeanour that he was indignant, almost angry at the only thing that he could be angry about: the shoddy meal she had prepared.
Jeff meowed provocatively. To Jeff this sounded like an enticing meow, an inviting “scratch my chin” meow but what Susan heard was quite different. To Susan, Jeff’s meowing effectively said
“you piece of shit, did you really think I wouldn’t notice? Why are you such a failure at everything you do that you can’t even provide your cat with a half decent meal?”
Susan began to weep, even though all Jeff had done was meow, she thought she was just filling in the blanks, she threw her copy of Chat! into the air, rushed into the other room and dove headfirst into a large beanbag and remained there for the rest of the evening mulling over how she might have lost the only good thing going in her life.
After Susan’s outburst, Jeff just sat there blinking at the empty chair, half trying to comprehend the behaviour he’d just witnessed but also because he knew that sitting on Susan’s lap whilst watching Emmerdale was effectively ruled out. After a few minutes he walked over to the doorway of the living room, and peeked inside. The evening was drawing in and the only light that shone into the dull grey room was the orange glow of a nearby street lamp. Jeff looked at Susan, she was still face down in the beanbag wither her arse in the air, he walked about for a bit and decided to go out for the night. Susan heard the door of the cat flap go and fell asleep shortly after.